July 17th, 2010


I only wish it worked that way ...

OK, so here is another of those Review Copies sent to me by a publisher primarily because of my penning The Job Stalker over on the Chicago Tribune's “Chicago Now” blog site (hellooooo FTC). What makes this book stand out (to me, at least) is that it's the first thing I've gotten from a publisher that came with swag. Now, I spent the majority of my career doing consumer product PR, and I know that you don't generally go through the expense of sending out the “cool stuff” to the riff-raff, so I had been feeling pretty puffed up having gotten a “KaChing” button (see the cover pic – it's like the Staples “easy” button, but it makes a sound like a cash register ringing) until being somewhat deflated to see that one could get one for free from the author's site. So, those of you worried that I've been “bought” … well, there was a fun toy in play!

To be honest, I have recommended this book to folks I've spoken with while still reading it, but that's more due to its content than the fact that Wiley packaged it up with some swag. KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays is very much a manual for setting up shop on the Internet. Much more so than many of the books out there (several which have been featured in this space), this is a “how to” rather than a book on the “philosophy” of on-line selling. To its credit, it's far less “encyclopedic” than some, with the author, Joel Comm, pretty much talking about what has worked for him and folks he's associated with, and only presenting a few alternatives where there are multiple options.

Comm doesn't spend a lot of time navel-gazing here, instead he points the readers to the tools that are available (most for free and with very short learning curves), and tells them to get to it. This does bring me to one significant caveat, however, and one that I've discussed with other books (so it is a “me” thing and might not be a factor for you at all): one really needs to know what one “wants to do” (when one grows up or whatever). One has to focus on an area of expertise and make it monetizable … an example of which would be his Mother's travel site, or another gal's Origami site. If you have an identifiable passion (which I, much to my on-going regret, appear to not), one can take the instructions in KaChing and quickly turn it into an on-line business.

One other notable data point that kept grabbing my attention were the frequently amazing dollar amounts that get bandied about in here. If his book was a blog post, it is likely that it would fall afoul of the FTC guidelines for generally expected performance (Comm does go into this area quite a bit, but I guess without reflecting on the tone of the book), as the numbers discussed do generally trend towards the high side. Having been personally involved in dozens of web projects that had every intent of making money (and yet failed to find a paying audience) I took a lot of this “with a grain of salt”.

Anyway, the book is structured in a walk-through of progressively more involved models, starting with a brief look at how resources are out there that would allow anybody to get up and running on the web, to how to find one's “niche” (and, again, this is where he loses me to a certain extent, as it's been my experience that niches and micro-niches simply mean vanishingly small populations with which to interact) and build a community in that, to the essential issue of content, which then leads to the area of “information products”, selling these via affiliate programs, setting up membership sites, and developing coaching programs. Each of these is very step-by-step, with practical material all along the way (almost all of my bookmarks in this are for resources I'd not previously encountered).

As I noted above, I have already recommended KaChing to a few people when conversations have turned to “I'd love to sell stuff on the Web”, so my caveats above should not diminish the value I see in this book as a “manual” or reference. However, I've been kicking around e-commerce for 15 years, and I would warn the reader not to expect the sort of results suggested when Comm writes: ”Month after month, Google has been sending me checks for more than $15,000 each.” … I'm guessing the “average” person really applying themselves to this in a reasonably popular niche is more likely to be seeing results closer to one percent of that figure. Of course, I've failed as much at this as Comm has succeeded so maybe you want to believe the upside, but be aware: you'll have to be talented, dedicated, and to a certain extent lucky to end up making a living off the web.

This is "hot off the presses", so should be available at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, but Amazon has it at a 34% discount, which is usually your best bet for new releases. Again, I really enjoyed this book, thought it was very well organized, and felt the material it presented was top-notch ... but on a sour-grapes gut level from my own experiences, I still see what Comm has achieved as a "best case scenario", which leads me to temper what would otherwise be a solidly enthusiastic recommendation of the book.

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